[Episode 20 | 1818 : Charles]

Unlike his posh older brother John, Charles is enjoying building a fence on the farm. At the end of the fence line he encounters Liam, a convict who is on the run. Liam asks Charles to bring him some food and boots.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [1]

Activity 1: Escape!
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Gender roles and stereotypes; Historical events

The remoteness of Australia and its formidable landscape and harsh climate made this alien land an ideal choice as a penal settlement in the early 19th century. While the prospect of escape may initially have seemed inconceivable, the desire for freedom proved too strong for the many convicts who attempted to flee into the bush. Early escapees were misguided by the belief that China was only a couple of hundred kilometres to the north. Later, other convicts tried to escape by sea, heading across the Pacific Ocean. In this clip, Charles meets Liam, an escaped convict who is attempting to travel over the Blue Mountains to the west.

  • Ask students to research the reasons why Australia was selected as the site of a British penal colony. They should also find out who was sent to the colony and where the convicts were first incarcerated. Refer to the My Place for Teachers, Decade timeline - 1800s for an overview. Students should write an account of the founding of the penal settlement in New South Wales.
  • As a class, discuss the difficulties convicts faced when escaping from an early Australian gaol. Examine the reasons they escaped and the punishments inflicted when they were captured. List these reasons and punishments on the board or interactive whiteboard.
  • For more in-depth information, students can conduct research in the school or local library, or online. As a starting point, refer to the resources listed below:
  1. Hirst, W 1999, Great Convict Escapes in Colonial Australia, Kangaroo Press, Sydney
  2. Convict Creations, 'Convict Escape Attempts', www.convictcreations.com/history/escapes.htm
  3. State Library of New South Wales, 'On the Run: Daring Convict Escapes', www.sl.nsw.gov.au/events/exhibitions/2006/ontherun/ 
  4. State Library of New South Wales, 'On the Run: Daring Convict Escapes', Exhibition guide, www.sl.nsw.gov.au/events/exhibitions/2006/ontherun/docs/ontherun_guide.pdf

  • Ask students to select one of the convicts listed below, and research their story of escape:
  1. Mary Bryant (1765-date of death unknown)
  2. William Buckley (1780-1856)
  3. Martin Cash (1808-1877)
  4. John Graham (aged 12, transported in early 1840)
  5. Alexander Pearce (1790-19 July 1824)
  6. John Porter (transported 20 November 1818)
  7. William Swallow (1807-date of death unknown)
  • Their individual research should gather information on the escapees about:
  1. their life prior to being a convict
  2. their experiences as a convict
  3. how they escaped
  4. consequences of their escape.
  • Students can use Student Activity Sheet H 20.1 Escape! to organise their notes and write a diary entry.
  • Ask students to work individually to write a diary entry imagining that they are their selected convict on the night before their escape. The entry should outline:
  1. the reasons why they are escaping
  2. their plan of escape
  3. their fears of what might happen to them if recaptured or lost in the bush.
  • To give the diary entry an appearance of being artificially 'aged', paint the page with a mixture of instant coffee granules and water. The diary entries can be shared with the rest of the class and displayed in the classroom.


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